I’m sure the opinion is pretty split and, I won’t lie, both the Detroit Tigers and the Oakland Athletics are going to be incredibly tough for Boston to beat, but I, for one, am hoping the Tigers prevail over the Athletics in tonight’s ALDS game five.
The A’s have a complete squad from top to bottom, very much like this year’s incarnation of the Red Sox, they like to play the Billy Beane small ball, they can hit home runs and their pitching is out of this world. That’s not to say the Tigers are not complete, but they have more than one area which the Red Sox may be able to take advantage of.
Let’s start with momentum: the Sox have just (more-or-less) rolled to a victory in the ALDS against Tampa Bay, and will settle in comfortably to Fenway Park for Game One. The Tigers however, have gone just 25-24 in their last 49 games and will be making the (presumably) red-eye, cross-country flight to Boston, not a great way to kick off the ALCS.
While the Tigers did manage to be one of only FOUR clubs with a winning record against Boston this year, that doesn’t tell the whole story, as Boston took the home series against Detroit, meaning their home field advantage should play right into Boston’s hand.
It’s true that Tigers Starters lead the AL in K/BB this year, but their lineup is ailing. Yes, the lineup on paper is downright terrifying and has shown an ability to knock Jon Lester around (Lester will take the ball in Game One). But one key cog of the Tigers Lineup is merely a shadow of the production he usually is. Athletics pitching has held Miguel Cabrera to just four hits in 16 at-bats, all four of which were singles. Hampered by a faulty hip, a poor show from Cabrera and/or Prince Fielder, who has been adeptly handled by Sox starters in the past, could seal the deal for Boston.
Not only that, but while the Detroit staff showed success around the league, it was not so Against Boston. Recall that Boston handed Max Scherzer one of only three loses on the season, and Scherzer is the only Detroit starter to sport a sub 5.00 ERA versus Boston on the year. Granted, Anibal Sanchez never had the pleasure of facing his former club, but the Red Sox crushed bother Dough Fister and Justin Verlander to the tune of respective 5.23 and 7.20 ERAs against Boston. Coupled with the fact that the Detroit bullpen is in an absolute state, the lethal Red Sox lineup should have no problem handling the Detroit pitching staff.
If the Sox can exploit the holes in the Tiger’s lineup, as well as hit the ball well against some shaky pitching, the series should be in the bag.